The Sweep: Can Youngkin catch McAuliffe in Virginia? – by Andrew Egger and Chris Stirewalt



Glenn Youngkin. (Photograph by Win McNamee / Getty Images

With Sarah this week we have a short sweet To sweep up for you today.

Quick campaign hits

Father’s time is running again: Senate Republicans received good news late last week when Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley announced his intention to run for an eighth six-year term in 2022. Grassley, who was elected to the first served in the Senate in 1981 and turned 88 this month, is the longest-serving and longest-serving GOP Senator currently in office. Despite a personal brand that can only be described as cranky only-his regular tweets storm how the History channel never shows actual history are the stuff of legend – Grassley is a procedural rock in the Senate and a virtual lock in Iowa. The state has had a more comfortably red trend in recent years, but for Republicans trying to regain a majority in the Senate, the fewer places they need to play in defense, the better. Next question: whether Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson will follow suit and enter another race.

Food fight in Ohio: Another reason Mitch McConnell breathes a sigh of relief at the news from Grassley: It’s not the kind of environment the GOP leadership is eager to recruit new candidates for. Just look at the chaotic primaries that have already emerged following other GOP retirements this cycle, whose crown jewel is the race to replace incumbent Senator Rob Portman in Ohio. Portman is a classic Swing State Republican, a relatively moderate moderate who called the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill “an attack on democracy itself.” The two main candidates to replace him, on the other hand, are leading a race almost entirely based on who can do the most convincing imitation of Donald Trump. Josh Mandel, the former state treasurer, suffered a personality transplant during its current run, which has mostly focused on so-called villainous platitudes like “Palestinians are a people of a fictional land who hate everything we stand for as Christians, Jews and Americans” and “Democrats are killed by the truth. “His main rival, Hillbilly elegy author and hedge-funder JD Vance, tries to present himself in a path of “intellectual Trumpism,” by leading a campaign focused on class grievances against cultural and political elites. Mandel accuses Vance of being a NeverTrumper closet, and is currently about 20 points ahead in the polls.

Checking the 2024 atmosphere: PoliticsAlex Isenstadt today has an interesting article on Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s efforts to build a national political apparatus:

The governor of Maryland, a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump, is lending his aid to Republicans in states filled with suburban voters who blocked the party during the Trump era. In recent weeks, Hogan has campaigned for Hope for Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. This weekend, he was the keynote speaker at a conference in Amelia Island, Florida hosted by the Moderate Republican Main Street Partnership.

And next May, Hogan will be speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum’s “Time for Choose” series, focusing on the future of the Republican Party. The Simi Valley, Calif., Forum drew an array of presidential candidates, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Is there room on the 2024 stage for a guy like Larry Hogan? We had our doubts. But it increasingly looks like Hogan will shoot that shot or not shoot at all: “I really don’t want to run for the Senate in 2022. Being one of the 100 people and arguing all day and do nothing, it just is. t have a great attraction for me.

Does Republican Glenn Youngkin stand a chance of taking the governor’s seat in Virginia, a state that is increasingly difficult for the GOP to don? Chris has some thoughts:

45 laps in the Virginia’s Governor Race

With five weeks left in the Virginia gubernatorial race and an early vote well underway, Republican Glenn Youngkin consistently votes just a handful of points behind Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Many GOP members are excited about their chances of reclaiming the Governor’s Mansion in a predominantly blue state. It would also send a strong signal on the leadership of the national electorate towards the midterms of next year, erasing some of the memory of the party’s mishap in the California recall.

So, is this reasoned optimism or wishful thinking?

The FiveThirtyEight average for the race puts McAuliffe about 3 points — 47.2 percent to 44.3 percent. If 8% of voters are truly undecided, that would definitely put Youngkin within reach. McAuliffe is essentially presenting himself as an incumbent as he seeks to return to office after being limited in his tenure in 2017, and his ally and fellow Democratic governor Ralph Northam is in office. A substantial indecisive vote late in a contest tends to be bad news for the incumbent. If voters know you but are still unsure, it means the challenger has a chance. But if the polls are correct, that would mean Youngkin would need around 75% of the bottom decision-makers, which is not impossible, but a very high threshold.

Regardless of the exact numbers, I think it’s a pretty good setting to watch the race. McAuliffe retains a considerable advantage, but there is a reasonable but limited chance of being upset. This is clear in the race’s most recent useful poll, released Monday from Monmouth University. The survey has McAuliffe up 5 points – 48% to 43% – with 7% undecided. This dovetails with the college’s August poll and the rest of the polls: Youngkin can close the gap, but must not only win widely among the undecided, but also get them to the polls. Remember, the least likely “likely voter” is probably the one who can’t make up his mind.

The bad news for Youngkin, however, is that this Monmouth poll follows the school’s corresponding poll in 2017, which also showed Northam up 5 points against former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie, who went on to lose by nearly 9 points. Youngkin needs a more intense version of what happened in 2013, the last time Virginia had its gubernatorial election with a Democrat in the White House. Eight years ago, polls showed McAuliffe led then-state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli with similar, albeit slightly larger, margins while McAuliffe now leads Youngkin. But Cuccinelli topped the pre-election polls by a notable amount and lost less than 3 points. Of course, the 2013 race also featured a libertarian candidate who ended up sparkling in favor of Cuccinelli.

The good news for the Republican in the new Monmouth poll is that there is movement below the fairly static topline. As Youngkin sagged a bit in the heavily Republican western part of the Commonwealth – possibly due to insufficient loyalty to former President Donald Trump – Youngkin has made great strides since August in the I-95 corridor to through and around Richmond. Last month, McAuliffe won that central Virginia strip by a 10-point margin, which was similar to Northam’s actual performance four years ago. Now Youngkin leads there by 9 points. These are small sample sizes and outliers can wreak havoc, but signs are that Youngkin needs to focus on the suburbs of Petersburg to Chesterfield to Fredericksburg. The good news for McAuliffe is that in the Tidewater area, home to many black voters in the state, his margin increased by 9 points. The state’s largest cache of votes – the Northern Virginia suburbs – has been deep and stable for McAuliffe by nearly 30 points.

The candidates face off tonight in their second and final debate, hosted at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria and hosted by NBC News’ Chuck Todd. We can bet that one topic will be the evolution of Youngkin’s stance on Trump’s efforts to steal a second term. Youngkin say now he would have “absolutely” voted to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election if he had been in Congress. It is a catch-up after refusing to say how he would have voted. If Trump was unhappy that Youngkin is trying to be both a sheep and a goat on MAGA issues, his absolutism about losing Trump will surely gain Youngkin more abuse from Trump and his followers. supporters.

McAuliffe, who faces President Biden’s declining approvals and Democrats’ frustrations over a stalled progressive agenda, can only benefit from a focus on Trump. There is no way for Youngkin to answer the questions without further reducing his support in the bright red western neighborhoods or without endangering new backers around Richmond.

The new normal for Virginia appears to be an electorate that sits fairly consistently at around 45% Republicans. With the notable exceptions of the ill-conceived Senate nomination of an anti-immigration fanatic in 2018 and the strong performances of Republican Mark Obenshain in the 2013 Attorney General race and Gillespie in his Senate race in 2014, statewide Republican candidates since Mitt Romney won 47 percent of the vote in 2012 remained in a very tight group around 45 percent. This has been true with large stakes, small stakes, presidential years, midterm contests, and slack years.

Youngkin so far looks like a candidate who will land right in the middle of this cluster. But McAuliffe knows that a depressed Democratic turnout combined with a single nudge to the right in a few vote-rich Northern Virginia countries could turn the race into a squeal. For now, Republicans are doing more than just wishful thinking. But five weeks in the current political climate of Veg-O-Matic is a long time indeed.


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